Geeky Christmas Notes

There were several technology gifts at the Hynes household this Christmas, and being the old guard geek that I am, I was interested in seeing what I could do with them.

I received an HP 7 inch digital picture frame. No great hacking things there. Simply load some sort of memory device with pictures on it and let the frame show the pictures. I pulled the SD card out of my Canon SD 1000 stuck it in the digital picture frame and there were the whales from last summer’s trip to Cape Cod. I tried hooking up the Canon SD 1000 directly, but the frame wouldn’t read it. I tried my Nokia N900 with the same results. However, the old Motorola Razr that my wife uses worked nicely as a source of pictures.

I was thinking that I would need to go out and get an SD card to use for the frame, but it also supports USB memory sticks, and I have a bunch of them kicking around from various tradeshows. So, I’ve done a quick load of some of the pictures that I had on my hard drive onto a memory stick and that is nicely configured.

The older girls got Nooks for their big presents. I helped them do a little configuration. One site I found that was really interesting is NookFeed. This sites allows you to take your Google Reader feeds and download them as books you can read on your Nook. Very nice. Mairead was happy to see some of her favorite web comics show up in her Nook. She also stuck a MicroSD card she had with music on it in the Nook. All of her music showed up. Unfortunately, it was in one very long list without any easy navigation. We also loaded an audio book for here.

The Nook is an Android based machine, and I kicked around ‘rooting’ them. The idea would be to see if a better audio file interface for the nooks could be found, as well as other tools to make them more usable.

There is an interesting approach, described in this post which utilizes hacking your local DNS to point to a site with a rooted update for the Nook. Much of the description about how to do this is based people using Windows machines with limited capabilities. In my case, I’m running an Ubuntu server in my home network, so I can hack DNS pretty easily. This page goes into how to reconfigure DNS. I’ve been meaning to clean up DNS and set up an internal zone for a while, so I kicked this around a little bit, but haven’t gone all the way to setting things up to be able to root the Nook. Maybe later.

My youngest daughter got a Nintendo DSi. I’ve kicked around getting DSLinux available for it, but read about problems people had with DSLinux and the DSi. I figure I’ll save that. My daughter probably isn’t as interested in DSLinux on her DSi.

What she is more interested in is playing with the camera and the music. The DSi has a slot for an SD card, so I took my SD card out of my Canon SD 1000 and put it in the DSi. The Canon shoots at a much higher resolution. The DSi only seems to support 640x480. However, with the SD card in the DSi, Fiona could take some pictures which were stored on the SD card. With that, I can load the pictures up to sites like Facebook or Flickr.

I looked around for ways to upload directly from the DSi to an online site, since it has Wifi. There was a reference to some Facebook connectivity, but that isn’t really a good option. So, we’ll juggle SD cards for uploading for the time being.

The other thing that I explored a little bit was loading music onto the DSi. Unfortunately, I don’t have a nice way of mounting the SD card on my computer. I do have a little device somewhere around for doing it, but I can’t find it right now. The Canon SD 1000 uses PTP as its USB connectivity, so I can load the gphotofs package on Ubuntu to access the photos, but I can’t write back to the device.

However, I can write to a microSD card in my wife’s Razr, and I have an adapter to fit the microSD card into a full SD card. So, I tried copying files from my computer to the microSD card and from there onto the DSi. The microSD card had a few files in M4A format. The DSi played these nicely. However, it doesn’t play MP3 files nicely. I was told that it will play aac files as well, but I didn’t have any luck.

I did check around a little see if I could find a nice way to convert an MP3 file to an AAC file. This article provided a good simple way to do it, assuming you have ffmpeg running on your linux box in a way that supports AAC. Unfortunately, the standard configuration of ffmpeg doesn’t do that. So, I tried some of the options in this article. Unfortunately, I could not get any of the prepackaged versions of ffmpeg to convert to aac. So, I went about and followed these instructions to get the latest version of ffmpeg running. Once this was done, it was easy to convert from mp3 to aac.

Essentially, I ran this command
ffmpeg -i input.mp3 -acodec libfaac -ab 128k output.aac
This produced an aac file that I could play with ffplay, but I couldn’t get it to play on the Razr or the DSi. I tried putting it in an M4A envelope with this command
ffmpeg -i output.aac -vn -acodec copy output2.m4a
Like the aac file, the m4a file plays with ffplay, but not on the DSi.

With that, I’ve played enough with the technology on Christmas day. I’m going to post this as is and head off to bed soon. Merry Christmas everyone.

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